21 comments

Submitted on 09/03/2020

Categories: Drama Romance Sad

Today is a damp day. The August heat broke a few days ago; we turned the air conditioner off and opened the windows. We reveled in the breeze that fluttered our curtains and the fresh air that filled our lungs. But last night, it rained, and the damp air creeped through the windows, leaving our furniture and clothes and skin feeling sticky. I’m reminded of the summers I spent at camp, sleeping in a cabin and waking to find myself wrapped tightly in a sleeping bag that had dampened overnight. Those thick and dewy mornings always burned into hot sunny days, but I can already tell that the clouds are here to stay today.

It is fitting that today is a damp day, heavy with moisture, because I have set myself to a task equally dreary and unpleasant.

I know that I am dying; there is no way around or out of it. I have told precious few people, because with each telling it feels more real, even as they deny me. It’s exhausting having to defend your own impending death. They challenge me, as if I want to die, and am speaking it into truth just by saying the words. So I have stopped speaking about it, and on this damp day I am hidden away in the office, making a list of my possessions and unfinished business, and doling them out to the same people who do not believe me when I say I am dying.

My will-writing must be completed in secret, because if I were to tell anyone, it would go about as well as saying the words, I’m dying. They would accuse me again of giving in, giving up, welcoming death with open arms. These same people are generally very practical, and encourage one another to invest in life insurance, buy cemetery plots, and yes, write wills. They call it planning for the future; they treat their eventual demise as something abstract and far-off, but when I bring up the very real, very immediate fact of my own death, they shake their heads and tell me I am a fool.

If it weren’t for that blatant hypocrisy, I would write a very different will than the one I’m currently drafting. A more reverent one. But as it stands, I will get my revenge by bequeathing each of them the most ridiculous items possible, so that when I die in a month or so, they’ll wish they had believed me.

To my mother and father, who never quite believed in me, and for good reason, I leave my comparatively small collection of paintings from my failed stint as an artist in my early twenties.

To my sister, who finds it sad that I never married and refuses to acknowledge my long-term partner as anyone other than a roommate, I leave my two cats, who require excessive veterinary care, and who never learned how to properly use a litter box. (Note: cats were adopted from rescue organization that does not accept returns.)

To my brother-in-law, who had the misfortune to marry my sister, I leave two boxes filled with all the cards I have ever received from family, friends, and family friends. One card still holds $300 in cash. I do not know which one.

To my brother, who thinks he is God’s gift to humankind, I leave my vast collection of books from my college days spent majoring in gender studies. Also, a burned CD of Carole King’s Tapestry album.

To my future sister-in-law, who I assume will be a beautiful blonde my brother meets on a beach, I leave my closet full of drab house dresses.

To my boss, who hasn’t given me a raise in ten years, I leave ten cover letters for different companies, ten unfinished letters of resignation, and ten form rejection letters. Also, my favorite pen.

To my coworker Marco, who visits the gym every day and still has dreadfully stick-thin legs, I leave the travel coffee mug and lunch containers he envied. Also, a jar of protein powder I bought in a moment of weakness.

To my coworker Sharon, who never admitted her ill-advised crush on Marco, I leave all the emails currently in my inbox, and the lunchbox that matches the containers given to Marco.

To my college friends, who rarely invite me on their reunion weekends simply because they live in New England and I live in the Pacific Northwest, I leave my many young adult fantasy novels, my high school yearbooks, and a single wineglass each. All future emails sent to my college address will be forwarded to them. There is no button to unsubscribe.

To the love of my life, whose only flaw was falling in love with me, I leave everything else, of real and sentimental value:

The house we share.

The third cat (the good, litter-trained one).

The spices in the cabinet that we bought on a whim.

The cheerful house dresses in my closet.

The original Carole King Tapestry album.

The patchwork quilt we made from our old t-shirts.

The couch with its perfect view of a sunset through the bay windows.

The—

A gust of cold air pushes through the vent under my desk, and I look up from my keyboard to see a familiar face peeking in through the slightly ajar door. “I turned on the air,” she says. “Do you want me to shut your windows?”

I save the document and, with some effort, stand up. “No,” I say. “I can do it. Thanks. It was getting humid.”

“I know. Everything was damp.”

I slowly cross the room and close both windows. She waits patiently by the door and doesn’t ask what I’ve been writing. Unlike the others, she doesn’t try to talk me out of my own death. Strange, how the person who will be most devastated is the most accepting. I only asked her about it once, and she looked at me sternly and said, “I always knew I couldn’t keep you for long. Why waste what time we have left by arguing about how we can prolong it?”

We close the remaining windows in the house, shutting out the hum of a busy neighborhood, and sit together in the sudden quiet. Outside, there is noise and humidity and conflict and tragedy, and soon all of that will return for me, but for now I am content to sit here, with her, and cherish the time we have left.

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21 comments

01:31 Sep 03, 2020

I loved this story!! It was short but grabbed my attention. I loved the list of the people, what they did, and what they would receive. Fantastic job!

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Kristin Neubauer
18:28 Sep 08, 2020

Such a wonderful story, Natalie! It has everything - it's poignant, funny at times, sweet, sad and very clever. It also gave me another possible explanation as to why one of my best friends who was dying of cancer never told any of us. Such insight. I loved this story in so many ways.

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22:15 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you as always for your lovely comment, Kristin. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, and I can't begin to imagine what that must have been like, but I'm glad that this little story was able to help you reflect on the experience. We never do know what kind of effect our writing will have once it's out in the world, and it's been so gratifying for me to see how my stories resonate with different people.

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Elise Holder
23:19 Sep 06, 2020

I absolutely loved this! It was a very original way to respond to the prompt, and I love the unexpected way she writes her will.

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01:46 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you Elise!

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A.g. Scott
04:06 Sep 03, 2020

Favorite of yours. This is one of only a few times I've actually been moved by a story on this site. Your writing is clear, professional, and, I want to say, juicy? What I mean is, you manage to squeeze a lot out of a little. Great work.

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01:02 Sep 04, 2020

Thanks so much, that means a lot! I've been writing longer, sort of wandering stories recently, and I wanted to try something shorter and more focused this week.

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Skyler Grey
20:13 Sep 10, 2020

Beautiful. I love the way you don't leave anything out- I can almost see Marco the stick-bug and that blonde Barbie doll of a future sister-in-law. This is great.

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Christina Hall
23:35 Sep 09, 2020

I liked this story, particularly the humanity that shines through at the end in contrast with the earlier bitterness, so we get that tiny glance into the main character.

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Off Line
11:20 Sep 08, 2020

Loved the use of vocabulary, the story was really well written. The grammar was tight. I wish I had written then first introduction paragraph, cuz... I loved it. My only critique is that with this prompt, I have seen other stories where the writers listed off peoples names, stating what they would or would not receive, but maybe there is another way to work in those peoples names, without it being in the traditional list format. Not that there is anything wrong with it. Keep on writing! Feel free to read and critique my submission...

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Laura Clark
21:25 Sep 06, 2020

This was such a beautiful read. It had a wonderful balance of humour, bitterness and sincerity. The earlier spiteful bequeathments were hilarious (those poor cats) but they really made the bequeathment to the narrator’s partner so much sweeter and more satisfying. The description in this is also fantastic. I particularly loved the couch that gets the view of the sunset but all of the items in the will were well done. There’s so much emotion in this - especially considering that this is a short piece. I really, really enjoyed this.

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23:57 Sep 06, 2020

Thank you Laura, I'm so glad you liked it! You've described exactly what I try to do in most of my writing: 'a balance of humor, bitterness, and sincerity.'

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Laura Clark
03:31 Sep 07, 2020

It’s a good combination of words to aim for! I’ll check out some of your back catalogue in the next few days as humour, bitterness and sincerity is an appealing combo for me too! If you’re interested and have some time, I’ve got a new one up and would love to hear your thoughts (but only if you are and do).

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16:58 Sep 07, 2020

Absolutely! I’ll check it out later today.

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Masha Kurbatova
13:33 Sep 03, 2020

i like the bitterness in this piece, as well as the softness and occasional funny bit. such a lovely & poignant story!

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00:44 Sep 04, 2020

thank you, that's exactly the vibe I was going for!

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:47 Sep 03, 2020

I’m so happy I know what small letter titles mean! This was very enjoyable. The title suggested a follow-up to finding babies in grocery stores during snowstorms, which it isn’t. At least not directly. But it has a similar tone and feel and I love how you give a nod to your past work in the name. The classic ‘will no one will like’ makes me think of a grumpy old man disinheriting his children and causing a stir (Grisham has flogged that old horse to death, hasn’t he?) so your story was a delightful variation. Having the protagonist disburs...

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18:47 Sep 03, 2020

I knew I wanted to use this title at some point, but I didn't think the grocery store baby really needed a follow-up (besides, the narrator of that story has plenty to do elsewhere). I wasn't expecting to write this story, but that's often the case with the ones I like the most, and when I finished I realized that it deserved the sequel title, even if it is more of a 'spiritual' sequel than a true one. I was mulling over it again today and noticed that both stories revolve around the idea of home and have complementary endings, so perhaps it...

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Jonathan Blaauw
07:59 Sep 04, 2020

Holographic wills, like the one in your story, can be written any old way. A farmer once wrote his will in dirt on his tractor while he lay dying beside it, and it was held to be valid! The only requirement is that the writer be of sound mind. I guess you could say – where there’s a will, there’s a way. Useless trivia, this, but still interesting. I like to think of stories as little wills actually. We give little pieces of our very heart and soul for the enjoyment of the world for eternity in our writing. An admittedly romantic notion – ...

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01:50 Sep 08, 2020

I wouldn't call that useless trivia at all! Now I know I can write a will in the dirt if the need ever arises. The second part of your comment, I'm not even sure how to respond to, because it's such a lovely sentiment that anything I try to add will only diminish the original. So I'll just say thank you for teaching me that stories are "little wills" - I think that's an excellent way to think about writing.

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Lulu Lemon
01:44 Sep 03, 2020

Great story!! I liked it when you listed what they each got, it was super descriptive and just awesome! It was a really heartwarming story, great job!

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